Don't be a drip: Technology for conserving water gets some props

Web-based application gets top honors for improving grape vineyard yields with a minimum of waste.

Was reading this morning about a contest called Imagine H20, which solicited business ideas that could be instrumental in saving billions of dollars of an incredibly precious resource, water. Imagine H20 is an organization that has backing from foundations and entities including RBC (the Canadian Bank), the Full Circle Fund, Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Top idea, from Fruition Sciences, is a technology solution that combines sensors (which are placed out among the views) and an application that already is in use among nine different grape growers in California. Fruition works not be monitoring the ground, but by measuring and sensing how much water is being "transpired" through the vine's leaves. Fruition is testing its idea among this very specific market and hopes eventually to branch out (no pun intended) into other agricultural applications.

WaterSmart Software (they DO have a Web site but are still in private beta and there isn't much info here) was one of the runner-ups. The company is developing software for utilities to offer to residential water customers, which will help consumers plan their water usage. The idea is that water utilities will be able to use the software as part of incentive programs to help curb water usage. The company has two pilot tests on deck for this year, and it proposes to help save homeowners about 3,000 gallons of water annually. The company's co-founder, Peter Yolles, notes:  "Conservation can be a cost-effective 'new' source of water."

There were more than 50 teams worldwide that submitted ideas for this inaugural contest, which doled out $70,000 in prizes (a combo of cash, legal and business support).

The organization is already planning for its next water entrepreneurship contest. Notes Ralph Petroff, one of the judges and an advisor to technology start-ups with Magna Vista Group:

"There are alternative sources of energy, but there are no alternative sources of clean water. Increased water efficiency is the only solution. We will run out of clean water long before we run out of oil."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com